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Pega: One Microjourney at a Time

The two main themes at Pegaworld 2019 in Las Vegas this week are “microjourneys” and empathy.

Empathy, I hope, we’re all familiar with. But what are microjourneys, and what’s the connection — if any — between the two concepts? Digital transformation, said Pega founder and CEO Alan Trefler, can be brought about “one microjourney at a time.” An example might be helping a customer understand a bill or resolve a billing problem.  AI and predictive analytics, applied to customer data aggregated in the Pega Customer Decision Hub, can surface the next-best-action to resolve the billing problem at speed.

A microjourney architecture

It’s the case management approach to problem-solving developed by Pega in the BPM space (as regular readers might remember), now applied to customer engagement. It’s a 1:1 approach, dealing with a specific pain point for a specific, individual customer. And the recommendation Pega is now making across the board is that brands identify these precise problems and challenges where Pega software can make a difference, and view themselves as building a “microjourney architecture.”

The microjourney term is Pega’s own, said Trefler (and they have, or about to, trademark it). Of course, as he agreed when I asked him, the microjourney has a 1:1 correlation with the case, but he believes the new term “resonates better.” It certainly has an empathetic tone. 

This is at the core of Pega’s customer engagement offering, across marketing, sales, and customer service. Engagement is broken down into many microjourneys, each reflecting the experience of an identified, individual customer. It is, as Trefler will insist, a completely different approach to that taken by some of the leading players in the customer experience and engagement space. When I asked him about the logic of Adobe, Oracle, SAP (and reportedly Salesforce), building unified customer profiles on what are essentially customer data platforms, in the cause of finer audience segmentation — on the way to 1:1 personalization, he laughed. “It’s very encouraging to know that our competitors are getting it as profoundly wrong as they are. Just the use of the word ‘segmentation’ shows a predilection for 20 year old thinking. I love it.”

In contrast to identifying segments “to whom you push products,” Trefler favors identifying people “whose experience you can try to optimize.” See the empathy there?

Empathy in many forms

Ethics and empathy were foregrounded at Pegaworld. Ethics in the sense of doing what’s right — whether it be with customer data or AI; empathy in the sense of standing in the customer’s shoes, and understanding what’s relevant to her, in context and in the moment.

Empathy? Yes, Pega’s got a tool for it: the Customer Empathy Adviser, announced here and available later in the year. It allows brands to be more considerate in decisions which, because made at scale and high speed, are being made by AI.

In a demonstration, Rob Walker (VP of decision management) showed how a bank could toggle back and forth between “colder” and “warmer” empathy options on the Adviser dashboard. The choices implied sending different kinds of messages, with various cadences, to the bank’s customers. At the chilliest end of the scale, one might imagine offering mortgages with no reflection on whether the target customers can afford them. Warmer empathy might prioritize the customer’s financial security over profits. Obviously, there’s a balance to be found: but whatever the choice, the Adviser predicts (in the moment) its costs and benefits. It’s a data-based glimpse at what the outcomes for business and customers will be.

At first, I thought this was based on overall assumptions about the effects of different kinds of messaging on the bank’s customers as a whole. Not at all. As Walker explained to me, it’s based on adding up countless individual interactions and their outcomes: “Hyper-personalization,” he emphasized. (The criteria for empathetic messaging does have to be set, in the case of each brand, by humans.)

Aren’t there brands out there who are going to be resistant to the news that highly profitable courses of action lack empathy? “You can just turn it off,” said Walker. The Adviser will be freely available, but it’s use optional. So why is Pega offering it at all. Walker, who has a long business and academic career in AI and next-best-action thinking, suggested: “AI may become a commodity.” Something everyone has at their finger-tips. If so, the Empathy Adviser — like the T Switch announced in 2017 (for transparency and trust in the algorithms) — might become a key differentiator.

“DX Heroes”

Pega also sees empathy as a key factor in what makes a DX hero. That’s someone who drives transformational digital change across their organization, with support from Pega solutions. The conference opened with DX Hero awards to individuals at brands like Nissan, JPMorgan Chase, SiriusXM, and FordDirect.

“A very real thread we’re trying to pull through the keynote presentations and the break-out sessions is this concept of digital heroes, empathy, and what it takes to turn these really powerful technology assets into business value.” Tom Libretto, Pega CMO, told me that being a DX Hero requires empathy, and not just with customers — with fellow employees too. “These are truly collaborative spirits, with a willingness to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and design from a customer first perspective.”

As for the Empathy Adviser, “The topic of ethical AI is only just heating up, and will continue for the foreseeable future. We can be at the forefront of pushing the envelope around new capabilities, last year with the Transparency Switch, this year with the Empathy Adviser; ideas that will advance the whole category.”

Tying it all together

Director of product marketing Matt Nolan saw close links between microjourneys and empathy. “I ask people why they buy us, and they say, you do two things really well. You make decisions really close to the point of interaction — while it’s happening. Yes, that’s the core of what we do. But the product is also set up to look at a customer, and say, if you’re in pain, let’s look at that — because you’re likely to churn, or call the call center with a complaint. The product is set up so that we can instantly adapt. For example, let’s not try to sell to you right now; let’s figure out how to solve your problem, and earn the right to a larger relationship.”

The only practical way to do that, said Nolan, is the one microjourney at a time approach. Enterprises which have been caught in the selling mind-set for years now understand that they need to get closer to customers and find a way to provide value on a long-term basis. “Operationalizing that,” said Nolan, “is (a) difficult, and (b) almost seems like a pipedream. But where you take a small use case, and expose customer to things like retention plans, nurturing, service messages, it allows you to build a baseline of lift. Once people see the lift, you can move onto the next use case. It’s a snowball effect, and you can do that with Pega pretty quickly.”

Who will buy?

Pega has long been a major player in BPM. Taking on customer engagement, or experience — or what many still call CRM — has meant asking the market to rethink what Pega offers. It seems to be paying off. Libretto told me that customer engagement offerings now account for 50 percent of Pega’s business — which, given the standing of its BPM business, is impressive.

“It’s been a really fast-growing part of our portfolio – largely because in a lot of our traditional implementations, the processes that continue to be automated, and the new processes that come on line that are ripe for automation, are very often to serve a customer outcome. That’s encouraged us to build out some sophisticated capabilities in the customer domain, and we’re excited about how large a part of our business that has become.”

Indeed, one of my experiences at Pegaworld (more to come on this) was meeting customers who don’t use Pega for BPM, but exclusively for customer engagement. Is that a growing trend? Nolan had an explanation. “We’ve traditionally had very good sales people, but with broad backgrounds. The subject [of CRM] is now becoming nuanced enough that we’ve had to invest heavily in people with strong CRM knowledge, and they’re finding green field. Customers appreciate that too, because they’re looking for trusted experts, focused on their specific functions.

Of course, the digital process automation capabilities springing from Pega’s BPM roots play well, said Trefler, with customer engagement. “Customer engagement and intelligent automation. We believe very deeply, they are two sides of the same coin.”

Pega covered DMN’s expenses to attend Pegaworld

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